How to Deal With Meetings With Your Boss
Bosses and managers love meetings. This is because in the absence of direct service provision meetings are one of their key responsibilities. It is not just that bosses are meeting-philic or born with an innate love of meetings. Often they have an even bigger boss above them directing them to have more meetings.
Because the amount of meetings often outweighs the need for meetings, meetings can be profoundly vague and alienating. We’ve all seen the ‘invitation’ pop up in Outlook days in advance and have subsequently stewed right up until plonking down in the soulless office.
We’ve all been plagued with catastrophic thoughts about having caused actual or near death, being accused of workplace harassment or being given the sack, distracting us from our actual roles as dutiful employees.
Perhaps the worst part of meetings with your boss is the defenceless, respect ‘face’ (DRF) you have to pull throughout their delivery. As a result of bosses own social incompetencies and awkwardness, the delivery or *wankword alert* ‘constructive feedback’ can come out in a jumbled, stream-of-consciousness manner.
When this is met with your activated fight or flight response you are very likely to miss the entire thing. After finally clarifying (1) the purpose of the meeting, and (2) the point, you might even be given an opening to talk.
At this point it is essential to take a deep breath and pause. Check in with your face muscles and ensure you are maintaining a DRF. You can usually achieve this by flexing your brow and lip muscles a few times and trying to leave them smooth.
Next, reflect what the boss said to you back to them so they know you understand (by now you’ve been in there 30-plus minutes). Then respond authentically. If there was a genuine oversight, acknowledge it and tell them you’ll know for next time. If they said something blatantly wrong, calmly explain why what they said was wrong and assure them you had actually done the right thing.
If you were blatantly patronised, breathe again, pause again, and tell yourself they are trying to help you. You help them by doing your job well so they want you to do your job well and be okay. Accept whatever ‘help’ is offered and go along with it, however disempowering. They are paying you so just do it!
Once you come out of the meeting check in to see how you feel. Check your internal weather. Angry? Tearful? Homicidal? Suicidal? Wronged? Accused? Disrespected? Patronised? Discriminated against? All of the above? Based on the emotions in that moment in time, ask yourself what you need right now. Do you need to go for a brisk walk? Do you need to submit an annual leave application? Do you need to weep in the toilet? Do you need to write a blog post about it?
What not to do is reacting. Do not fire off a nasty email or bitch to a co-worker. This will almost certainly make the situation worse. It can delude the boss into thinking there really was something worth meeting with you about and this will surely prompt further meetings.
Try to internally down-regulate instead. Use your body to discharge some of the tension. Reconstruct your thoughts by telling yourself that every worker endures bullshit meetings and bosses make them because they have to and because they are trying to help you.